15 Questions with Atina Atwood the Author of the Holiday Heartbeats Series (from House of 1000 Books)

My Second Blog Interview!

Things are starting to get exciting over here, and as excited as I am about it, I’m noticing that it’s getting a bit more challenging to balance all the things. Work is demanding more of my attention, and because I have an equally demanding toddler, I’m only just now realizing the similarities between the two, ha ha.

On another note, My interview with House of 1000 Books went live last Wednesday, and in case you missed it, I’m posting it here. Thanks to Topher for a great experience.

“Topher Hoffman: Hello! Today we have Atina Atwood answering questions at The House of 1000 Books.  She’s the creator of the Holiday Heartbeats Series. This series includes His Epiphany, Love Games, and her newest novel, Luck of the Irish!

She states in her bio that in general, her stories vary in heat levels— from YA to sweet romantic stories to steamy contemporary romance. All of her books have multicultural characters that are strong-willed and purpose-driven.

I’m interested in what she has to say, so with that, let us get to the questions.

Hello Atina, and welcome to the House of 1000 Books blog.  I have a few questions that I would like to ask you, that I’m sure our readers would love to find the answer out too.

Every author ignited their writing career at one point in their life. That point where they said, hey, I’m an author.  At what age did you realize that you were an author, and accepted it?

circle atina atwoodAtina Atwood: Thanks for inviting me. It’s hard to pinpoint the age where I initially self-identified as being an author. I see myself as being a lot of things, author included. My first published work was a poem when I was 12, but I guess the most defining moment for me was when I became a traditionally published author in nonfiction back in 2012.

TH: Sometimes to follow your dreams, you need to make sacrifices. If you had to give one thing up that is important to you to make you a better writer, what would it be?

AA: This makes me think of my main character in LUCK OF THE IRISH, Nhu. She made the mistake of sacrificing her dreams for what she thought was love and ended up misaligning the trajectory for making that dream come true. Now, she won’t let anything — or anyone — stand in the way of accomplishing her goal.

In my case, thankfully, things are less dramatic. I’m used to giving up sleep for reading and writing. It’s exhausting, but it’s worth it. Coming from a strong Performing Arts background, followed by a career in Academia, being prepared to make sacrifices is kind of ingrained in me. In my experience, with determination and focus, it’s usually worth it.

TH: Writing takes time, skill, and a lot of practice. If you had to do one thing differently as a child to help you with your writing practice today, what would it be?

AA: I like this question. Honestly, the experiences I’ve had led me to be the writer I am today. I understand the importance of self-motivation and discipline. There will be wins, and there will be inevitable losses, but nothing will happen if you don’t show up, day after day. These skills are proving to be helpful in my writing career.

TH: Now that you have three books that you have written, and I’m sure you read hundreds of other stories, could you tell us what, in your opinion, are the most critical elements of good writing?

AA: I can only repeat what the seasoned, great authors stress — and that is to study your craft. Learn what moves you as a reader, ask yourself why it moved you, and then spend the rest of your life trying to figure out how those word combinations moved you. Experiment to learn how you can create that same kind of magic for readers of your own works. Read, read, and then read some more. Find your voice. I’m still searching for mine.

TH: With writing being time-consuming, do you keep a schedule while writing, and if so, can you describe a typical writing day?

AA: On my designated writing days, my work day starts at around 9:00 AM; if I’m lucky, I can get in a half hour earlier. Mornings are my most productive work hours, so that’s where the most tends to happen. By 3:00 PM or so, my brain is ready for a break. My husband sends me reminders to eat, and I have apps that send me reminders to drink and step away from the computer. (I try not to ignore them.) Evenings are reserved for my family; after that, I’ve got another two hours to write before I go to bed and read for another 2-3 hours.

When deadlines approach, or when a particular scene needs to be written, I’m up until 2:30 AM getting it done. Writing is my job, and I treat it like one. The most dangerous thing novice writers can do is treat their writing careers like it’s a hobby.

TH: Writing habit and personal ticks, what would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

AA: I love wearing my malas when I write, one made of rose quartz and the other made of Tiger’s Eye. I’m big on crystals, and I have an amazing, inspirational assortment on my desk.

TH: Many people have said things over the years.  Some sounded smart, others wise, and some funny. What is your all-time favorite quote?

a goalAA: Because I’m bilingual, I have to pick two:
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” – Unknown
“Hier bin ich Mensch; hier darf ich’s sein.” – Goethe

TH: Now that you have a few novels out, could you tell me do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

AA: I appreciate the time any reader takes to write a review of one of my books. This is one of the best ways to connect with an author, and so far, I focus on that.

At this point, I’m still my biggest critic, so once I put something out there and It’s actually published, I need to accept that I gave my best at that time. Every project for me is bigger, more ambitious than its predecessor. There’s no chance of me growing as an author without pushing past my self-imposed boundaries and getting out of my comfort zone. LUCK OF THE IRISH is exactly that. It’s hard to make three likable main characters when you already know that one of them will not walk away with the prize. I’m curious to hear what readers think about that.

TH: In your profile, you mentioned that you have a wide array of written work, where does all your inspiration come from to keep things fresh?

AA: I started in nonfiction, and during a very stressful time, I turned to fiction (primarily Romance) to switch gears mentally. I’m fortunate to be able to write in both worlds, so I have plenty of opportunities for continued inspiration. Primarily, my inspiration comes from my desire to help, educate, and entertain. Escapism is a necessary act within the human experience, and I love creating stories that facilitate this process.

TH: I’m sure as you write, you get more and more ideas that flood into your brain that get you excited. Do you have any plot ideas that you haven’t written about yet, if so, can you tell us about one?

AA: My ideas sit with me and incubate, sometimes for years. There’s a YA fantasy trilogy inside of me, and it’s about 7 years old now. I’m not ready to tackle it yet, but I am looking forward to the day when I will be. I just finished my first YA novel last month, working title CHRISTMAS AT LOVEMOUNT HIGH (unrelated to the trilogy). I already have the entire plot developed for the second book in that series as well.

Let me point out that I don’t yet consider myself to be a YA or FF author. Still, when characters speak to me, I have to put them in the appropriate environment.

TH: Now, the time has come! The question you are dying to answer! Your newest book. Can you tell us about your latest book?

bookcover Luck of the IrishAA: LUCK OF THE IRISH (HOLIDAY HEARTBEATS #3) is a sweet contemporary romance novella, out on August 8, 2019, but is ready for preorder. It’s the third installment of my Holiday Heartbeats series, a collection of novellas with strong, diverse characters. The stories take place in various locations throughout San Diego, California.

Nhu Hoang’s tired of putting her needs second to everyone. When her boyfriend reveals he’s still not going public about their relationship after nearly two years, she’s blindsided. She deserves better, but it’s hard letting go.

Jack can’t win. Destined to stand in his father’s shadow and continue the Smith’s political legacy, he doesn’t trust himself to do anything that could lead to disapproval. He hates hurting Nhu, but losing his father’s favor would destroy him.

Eoghan Kelly knows what he wants, and he came from Ireland to California to get it. Winning the internship isn’t a surprise, but falling for the enigmatic barista with her stack of law books is unexpected.

When Eoghan learns Nhu’s not completely over her ex, things get complicated. When he finds out her ex is his cousin, Jack, things get messy.

Only one of them can be with Nhu. Will she make the right choice?

TH: Where did you come up with the idea for this book?

lovegames-bookcoverAA: While I was writing LOVE GAMES (HOLIDAY HEARTBEATS #2), the main character Marisol was talking to her best friend, Nhu. They were both waiting for their exam results. It ended well for Mari, and I wondered what happened to Nhu.

One of my advance readers requested a continuation of Dante and Marisol’s story, suggesting that someone from their past resurfaces, causing conflict. This made me think of love triangles and the challenge writers have of writing one that isn’t cringe-worthy. That’s how Nhu’s dilemma rose to the surface.

TH: That sounds great! What did you edit out of this book?

AA: I like to point out that my Holiday Heartbeats series is a sweet-heat, closed-door romance series, also known as “clean” romance. (Calling one type of romance “clean” infers that others are “dirty,” imposing an unnecessary sense of shame on readers that I do not agree with.) In this closed-door romance series, there are plenty of hot moments that progress the story, but there are no sex scenes.

TH: Out of the three main characters in the book, who is the one that you like the best?

AA: I have to say that I really like Nhu. She has so much to gain, and it’s beautiful watching her as she slowly begins to realize it. She begins to recognize and claim her sense of self-worth, and I love how she knows from now on she’ll be happy with — or without — a man beside her.

Eoghan is so confident and easy-going, and Jack is incredibly loyal but conflicted as to where his loyalties must lie. I like that there’s no true villain here — just three people who have to make some hard choices involving people they love and don’t want to hurt, but they all know that no one will get out of this conflict unscathed.

TH: What do you hope your readers take away from this book?

AA: This is another question that I appreciate. When readers finish reading LUCK OF THE IRISH, I hope they will remember that the hardest decision to make in love and life is to remember to love yourself first. By treating yourself with loving kindness, you gain a better understanding of what you want to give and receive in love. You understand that your sense of self-worth is not contingent upon being with someone in any relationship that makes you feel less than what you know you deserve.

TH: Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

AA: I’m Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.â„¢ Readers can join my quarterly newsletter to get updates about new releases and giveaways. Follow my blog, atinaatwood.com for my favorite motivational and romantic quotes, as well as my latest take on current events surrounding Love, Life, and Romance. I’m most active on Twitter (@Atina_Atwood), but I’m also on Goodreads, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.

Thanks so much for interviewing me! I hope that more people will find LUCK OF THE IRISH and get to know and love Nhu, Eoghan, and Jack as much as I do.”

– End –

Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2019 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.â„¢

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, romance. She is the author of the Holiday Heartbeats series. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more, and sign up for Atina’s newsletter here.


I’m so excited to share my first interview about the Holiday Heartbeats series! You’ll find it here with Scottish author Lacey Dearie on her popular blog Rock Paper Spirit Daily. Lacey is the prolific, author of cozy Cat Sleuth mysteries, and if you haven’t had a chance to get to know her, I suggest that you check out her award-winning blog (with over 35,600 subscribers!). She’s honest, insightful, and delightfully quirky with a keen business sense. It was a pleasure and an honor to have had this experience. Thank you, Lacey!


Today on Rock Paper Spirit, I’m welcoming romance writer, Atina Atwood, author of the Holiday Heartbeats series. She’s just released a new book called Love Games so I thought I’d invite her along on one of my research trips today. We’re at a masquerade ball, people watching and observing all the couples falling head over heels in love. Isn’t it sweet?

atina atwood author interview
Love Games is available now!


Atina, welcome to the blog! I love your mask! 

Thank you so much! I’m not necessarily one with off-the-runway fashion sense, but I’m really digging the whole midnight black, silver, and sparkling crystal thing going on here.

Why don’t you tell me a little bit about your latest book?

Love Games is a sweet Valentine’s Day novella, and it the second story in my Holiday Heartbeats series. This is Dante and Marisol’s story. Dante is a player, accustomed to using seduction in order to secure difficult business deals. He secretly despises himself for it and wants to change. When his method backfires, he takes some time to figure himself out. He ends up meeting Marisol, who doesn’t exactly embrace him with open arms.

Marisol is a no-nonsense kind of woman, fresh out of law school and waiting for her bar results. She’s fiercely devoted to her Mamá and her best friend, and she’s just as protective of her heart.

When they meet, sparks fly (as do a few tulips). Can Dante actually prove himself to be more than just eye-candy with a blemished reputation, or will Mari fall victim to the player’s game?

The comment about the tulips is intriguing me, but I guess I’ll have to read the book to find out what that’s about! Isn’t this book 2 in the series? What was the first one about?

Love Games (Holiday Heartbeats #2) takes place around Valentine’s Day. The first story in the series is His Epiphany, and it’s a sweet short story set during the Christmas season. Riley is actually Dante’s best friend; when Riley meets Epiphany, he knows he’s meant for her, but it nearly kills him when she runs into Dante’s arms. Years later, we find out why she ran to Dante instead of him. It’s a quick, sweet read. Maybe one day, I’ll revisit those two and learn more about their happily ever after.

His Epiphany


Imagine you’re a fairy tale character. Which one would you be and why?

Presently, I’d be a dragon, because my Little Man (toddler) is totally into them. The more fierce, the better.

Good choice! What one thing that is important to you would you give up if it meant you could become a better writer?

I can actually answer this question in the past tense because it’s no longer hypothetical for me. Last year, I actually left my full-time university position to start my own business and be able to write full time. This is because I was put in a position that women face far too often — career or family. For me, family will always come first. I’d already been planning for a transition that would allow me more autonomy in my profession, but it takes guts, a bit of foolishness, and a ton of hope to walk away from what you know and also love. In the end, though, it has also helped me reclaim a deep sense of self-confidence.

It isn’t easy, and I’m learning and growing every day. Waking up every morning with a strong sense of purpose and excitement is an amazing feeling. The best part is that I’m still affiliated with the university but on my own terms. It’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, career-wise.

I can definitely relate to having to choose between career and family! What are the hardest scenes for you to write?

I often have difficulty writing the settings, because I’m so focused on what the characters are saying and doing. Sometimes, the background remains, well, in the background. I also have to be careful not to spend too much time describing any place because I’ll get so caught up in the details, and I’m in danger of missing some of the action between the characters.

Like all of the stories in my Holiday Heartbeats series, Love Games takes place in San Diego, California. The characters travel all over the county, and I have to be careful not to include too many details or hard facts, but provide just enough information the reader draw a sketch in their mind’s eye of what I’m describing and then can focus on the action at hand.

Masquerade balls: creepy or fun?

Lacey, they are creepy AF. Don’t get me wrong — I absolutely love the bling on this gorgeous mask! It looks fabulous with black satin, Swarovski crystals all around the eyes, and the charcoal silk overlay is breathtaking. Of course, the raven’s feathers are to die for. Full disclosure — I’m taking this sucker home with me.

But back to your question. Yeah, honestly, it seems as though everyone is parading around, wearing a mask. We’re trying too hard to impress when most of us can barely hold our crap together on a daily basis. Too often, we’re chasing illusions — whether it’s the mask of a political party or ideal, the idolatry of a celebrity, or the fanaticism of social media influencers. We’re losing sight of the fact that it’s okay to be a bit messy, a tad quirky, a little… lost sometimes. But if we keep focusing on the noise and shine surrounding us, eventually we’re going to collectively end up being a grotesque distortion of the superficial image we’ve been striving to become. Ultimately, we’re forgetting to be our true selves. Whatever the heck that means.

Do your family support your career as a writer?

Unequivocally. They also supported my career as an opera singer, which led to so many fantastic experiences, most importantly, meeting the love of my life while I was still a teenager. When I had to stop performing after a car accident, I turned to Academia, which inevitably led to research and a ton of writing. For me, it was a match made in heaven. Writing is a culmination of so many worlds. I don’t write Romance exclusively, but it’s definitely one of my most favorite genres to write. My husband is my biggest supporter, and my sister keeps asking me for more installments. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that most of my closest friends are right in my corner as well.

You’re extremely well-qualified in terms of academic achievements, aren’t you? Tell us a bit about your background before you became a writer.

I’ve been on stage since I was five years old, so being in the creative and performing arts has always been an integral part of my life. The only thing that I’ve been doing longer than performing is reading. My mom loves to remind me that I started reading “books with no pictures” at the age of four. The multifaceted story of humanity has always fascinated me. My lifelong dedication to various methods of communication eventually led to me earning my Bachelor’s, Masters, Ph.D., and various certifications in interrelated fields.

There’s something captivating about the Drang, or the urge to communicate by any means available to us. It doesn’t matter if it’s through music, through words, through language, through sounds, or through movement — some people just HAVE TO create — and I’m one of those people. I’m blessed that my family recognizes this and supports me in knowing that I simply must live my life as a creative spirit.

What’s the most difficult part of the writing/publishing process for you? Is it the artistic side of things or the business side?

I think that both sides have their pros and cons. I can see the artistic side being difficult for me because I’m still learning my craft. Despite its undeserved reputation, writing Romance is hard. I’m constantly learning by reading and writing. I ask questions: How much is cliché? How much is too much? Do the characters and plot have enough depth? If not, how can I enhance them?

It’s a learning process, and from the very beginning, I decided that I was going to be honest with my followers about my journey into writing fiction. That means with each publication, I expect each one to improve. There will be hits and misses, and I expect to grow with each new release. I’m grateful and indebted to all of my readers and followers who choose to stick with me; Love & Light to those who encourage me every step of the way.

Although I’ve been traditionally published in nonfiction, tackling the business of self-publishing in fiction is no joke. I don’t even have my blog properly categorized, much less with SEO. Rookie moves, I know. But I’m working on it. I believe that in business, it’s about setting a target and doing whatever it takes within the confines of your abilities to achieve that goal and then repeating the process. As soon as I’m specific about exactly what I want Atina Atwood to accomplish, I can also help my readers know what to expect. (Good luck with that, fam.)

Aww, look at that couple over there! He’s been smiling at her all night and he just worked up the courage to ask her to dance! Makes me all warm and fuzzy. What do you think brought you to the point where you started writing romance? Was it planned or was it something you stumbled upon by accident?

I started reading Romance novels six years ago. I was bedridden for months and so I spent my days surrounded by things that brought me to a positive place emotionally. I discovered that there was nothing more powerful or healing than the expectation of a happy ending.

Although I could say that writing Romance was something I stumbled upon, it wouldn’t be completely true. I’ve been researching the cultural necessity for Escapism and its employment through various mediums and genres throughout international societies and eras for years. One constant theme has always been Romance, unrequited or reciprocated. It’s a basic human theme — we all want to love and be loved.

How do you choose the names for your characters?

Most of the time the names just come to me, as do their stories. In Love Games, Dante and Marisol just introduced themselves to me with a funny scene involving tulips. Marisol quickly became Mari in my mind, and I can’t imagine her any other way. On the other hand, Mari’s best friend, Nhu, is the heroine in Luck of the Irish (Holiday Heartbeats #3 — coming soon!). Because Nhu is Vietnamese, I definitely knew that I had to do a lot of research on her name and understand the significance of her name from a cultural standpoint. Fortunately, I can also rely on some of my family members for #Ownvoices insight to help me with this.

Luck of the Irish – coming soon!


Oh no. That couple aren’t getting along so well any more. Did she just throw cake at him?! 

Um yes. She definitely did. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say the 5’3 culprit looks like Nhu, and Mari is trying to hold her back! And now Dante is protecting them both from… the duck confit.

Darn it. I was looking forward to eating some of that.

It’s turned into a full-on food fight. DUCK! Ok, before we go, because no Lacey interview is complete without this question, what’s your favourite cookie/biscuit?

I love chocolate chip cookies. Soft in the center, and warm all around with just the slightest crisp around the edges. Yum!

Thanks Atina. Where can we find Love Games and your other book, His Epiphany? And where can we find you on social media?

Thanks so much, Lacey! This was fun. You can find Love Games, His Epiphany, Luck of the Irish (coming soon!) and all of the Holiday Heartbeats series on Amazon, iBooks, Barnes & Noble and wherever ebooks are sold.

Join my newsletter for freebies and news about the series’ progress. Check out my blog for #MotivationalMondays, Tuesday’s blog, and Thursday’s Romantic Thought. I’m also on Twitter, supporting and following back other readers and writers who love to write and spill the tea. I also exist on Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook.

I’ve had a blast. Thanks again Lacey, and have a fabulous Valentine’s Day!


Sending Love and Light to all of you.

©Atina Atwood 2015-2019 Exploring Love and Life, One Word At A Time.™

– Atina Atwood is a southern girl who moved from Europe to the West Coast. A former university professor in Germany and California, Atina stepped away from Academia to focus on her miracle child, life, love, food, quilting, and of course, Romance. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook for more, and sign up for Atina’s newsletter here.

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